What can I Expect During a Renal Scan?

Article Details
  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 13 August 2019
  • Copyright Protected:
    Conjecture Corporation
  • Print this Article
Free Widgets for your Site/Blog
Many colleges use therapy dogs; research suggests they can lessen stress and improve at-risk students' performance.  more...

August 20 ,  1955 :  Hundreds of people were killed in anti-French rioting in Morocco and Algeria.  more...

A renal scan is a test that is often used to test kidney function. During this test, a small amount of radioactive material is injected into a vein. A few minutes later, a machine is used to scan and take pictures of the kidneys. This test can often determine such things as blood flow to the kidneys or if there is any urine backing up into the kidney once it has left the kidney, a condition known as urinary reflux. A renal scan is a simple outpatient procedure and requires no recovery time for the patient.

A renal scan will often be ordered by a physician if the patient is suspected of having a kidney disease or impaired kidney function. The goal of this test is to measure the size of the kidneys as well as to tell if there is any functional impairment, such as urinary reflux or a problem with proper blood flow to the kidneys.


Just before the renal scan is performed, a small amount of radioactive material, referred to as a radioisotope, is injected into a vein, typically in the arm. Adverse reactions to this substance are very rare, so it is considered to be a safe form of testing. Depending upon the medications normally taken by the patient, the doctor may recommend not taking any medications that may negatively affect the test until after the renal scan has been completed. It is generally recommended that the patient drink plenty of fluids prior to the test.

A few minutes after the injection, the renal scan itself will begin. This consists of several images, or pictures, being taken of the kidneys. These pictures are taken several minutes apart. The entire procedure generally takes between 30 minutes to an hour.

Once the renal scan has been completed, a computer will process all of the information gathered from the images. This information will allow the computer to measure the size of the kidneys as well as determine the amount of function. The doctor will then use this information in making a diagnosis.

After the renal scan, it is generally advisable to drink plenty of fluids in order to flush all of the radioactive material out from the body. In some cases, the patient may find out the results of the renal scan on the same day as the procedure. It is more common, however, to get the results at a follow-up visit with the ordering physician.


You might also Like


Discuss this Article

Post 4

My poor child freaked out during her renal scan. She was only five years old, but she had been having some kidney issues, and since I have a genetic kidney condition, there was a high chance I had passed it on to her, so we had to find out.

The doctor thought the renal scan would be the least scary way to diagnose her. He did not know she had a phobia of being left alone in a room, though, and everyone had to leave the room while the pictures were being snapped.

She could not be still. She sat up and started screaming. They had to sedate her and wait for it to take effect before they could start again. I felt horrible that she had to go through this, but we learned that she did have my condition, and we needed to know that.

Post 3

My nephrologist makes me get renal scans every three years to monitor the progress of my kidney disease. I have enlarged kidneys covered in thousands of cysts, some big and some small. He exams the photos from the renal scans to see how much they have grown and how many new cysts have formed.

The more cysts I get, the higher the chances of my kidney function being impaired. From my last renal scan, he could see that my largest cyst was 10 centimeters, which is huge! It had grown about a centimeter over those three years.

Another reason he recommends a renal scan every few years is that I am at an increased risk of developing kidney cancer. The scan could alert him if I were to develop signs of this.

Post 2

I have had several renal scans during my lifetime, and I have to say that I love the fact that they are painless. I have also had ultrasounds of my kidneys, and these make me grateful for the existence of renal scans.

During the ultrasound, the lady had to press really hard on my abdomen to get a good image. Since my kidneys are covered in cysts because of my condition, this was very painful.

The renal scan was like a vacation compared to this. I got to lie down and be still and peaceful for about thirty minutes. The prick of the IV needle was the only discomfort I experienced during the whole process.

Post 1

My doctor suspected that I might have a kidney condition. She sent me to the nearby hospital for a renal scan.

I had to put on a gown and lie on a bed. They placed an IV in my arm to deliver the radioactive fluid.

The photos were taken by a camera under the bed. Since kidneys are located closer to the back than the front, this makes sense. The nurses got the camera ready and went to a separate room, but they could hear me and I could hear them.

They told me to try and stay as still as possible. After it was over, I waited while they looked at the pictures. Instead of telling me what they saw, they sealed the photos in a large envelope and sent them to my doctor, who called me later to come in and hear the results.

Post your comments

Post Anonymously


forgot password?